'Lincoln' screenwriter admits inaccurate portrayal of Connecticut congressional delegation

"Lincoln" screenwriter Tony Kushner has admitted that he did inaccurately portray the Connecticut congressional delegation's vote on the 13th Amendment — and he explained why he did it.

The issue came to light when U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, issued a press release Tuesday, pointing out the error. In the Oscar-nominated film "Lincoln," two of the four Connecticut congressmen were shown as voting against the amendment to abolish slavery. In reality, all four supported the amendment.

Kushner released his own letter on the matter Friday. It said, in part, "Rep. Courtney is correct that the four members of the Connecticut delegation voted for the amendment. We changed two of the delegation's votes, and we made up new names for the men casting those votes, so as not to ascribe any actions to actual persons who didn't perform them.

"These alterations were made to clarify to the audience the historical reality that the Thirteenth Amendment passed by a very narrow margin that wasn't determined until the end of the vote," he wrote. "The closeness of that vote and the means by which it came about was the story we wanted to tell."

Kushner said that the changes made in "Lincoln" were in line with the usual standards for a historical drama. He added, "I hope nobody is shocked to learn that I also made up dialogue and imagined encounters and invented characters."

Courtney's reaction, issued in a press release Friday, includes the following: "I am pleased that Mr. Kushner conceded that his 'Lincoln' screenplay got it wrong on the Connecticut delegation's votes for the 13th Amendment. My effort from the beginning has been to set the record straight on this vote, so people do not leave the theater believing Connecticut's representatives in the 38th Congress were on the wrong side of history. This is a positive step toward that end, and I still hope a correction can be made in advance of the film's DVD release."

In his letter, Kushner made a dig at Courtney and his earlier press release: "I'm sorry if anyone in Connecticut felt insulted by these 15 seconds of the movie, although issuing a Congressional press release startlingly headlined 'Before The Oscars…' seems a rather flamboyant way to make that known. I'm deeply heartened that the vast majority of moviegoers seem to have understood that this is a dramatic film and not an attack on their home state."


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